Kawhi Leonard delivered the Toronto Raptors their first and only NBA championship last season.
Then he left town.
He made his first return to Toronto on Wednesday since signing with the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason.
The Raptors faithful didn’t forget his contributions, offering a rousing reception to the 2019 NBA Finals MVP when he was introduced as a member of the visiting team. And when the night was done, his Clippers picked up a convincing 112-92 win.
Toronto celebrates Leonard’s historic playoff run
Leonard delivered on one of the NBA’s all-time great individual playoff runs last season that included a dramatic, game-winning buzzer-beater to eliminate the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series before out-dueling Giannis Antetokounmpo in the conference finals and leading Toronto to a 4-2 victory over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
En route to the championship, Leonard averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 during the playoffs.
The Raptors commemorated that run with a video tribute to Leonard that concluded with him hugging his former teammates and receive a rousing ovation from an appreciative Toronto crowd.
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry then handed Leonard his championship ring.
“It was great,” Leonard told ESPN after the game of his reception. “We had an unbelievable season last year — competed throughout the whole season — and a historic run in the playoffs. It was a great feeling.”
Clippers dominate behind stifling defense
The energy that filled the arena in pregame introductions was largely gone by halftime. Leaning on their elite perimeter defense, the Clippers made life hard for the Raptors and took full control with a 37-14 second quarter that put the game out of reach by halftime.
Leonard led the Clippers with 23 points while adding six assists, five rebounds and two steals. Pascal Siakam paced the Raptors with 24 points, but Kyle Lowry struggled to six points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Lowry wasn’t the only Raptor struggle against the Clippers three-headed defensive stalwart of Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley as Toronto shot just 34.5 percent from the field and 8-of-36 (22.2 percent) from 3-point distance.
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